2023-24 Fellow: Cynthia Brawner

3rd Grade Gen. Ed. Teacher in Chicago, IL – Wadsworth STEM Elementary

2023-24 Fellow: Cynthia Brawner is a National Board teacher. She enjoys learning and leading professional development sessions. Cynthia Brawner began as a day-to-day substitute teacher while wanting to work in the arts. Now, after +25 years in education, teacher leader Brawner is passionate about those whose lives she touches.

She believes that people are only capable of operating at the level they’ve experienced. This has encouraged her to learn more for the sake of her students: “The more I learn and give back, the more students will know and experience.”

While teaching, Brawner provides unique experiences for her students both in regular classes and after school. Once, she incorporated pizza with a math lesson. Students learned measuring as they made pizza from scratch. Wanting to go to the next level and utilize the schoolyard garden, she applied to the Pilot Light Fellowship. Miss Brawner realizes the in-depth learning for her and her students, and she looks forward to implementing food activities in her classroom. She is excited to participate in this year’s Food Education Fellowship! Brawner has earned several postgraduate education degrees, and numerous certificates in digital and technology; is active in the faith-based community, and still enjoys teaching. Brawner currently teaches third grade in Chicago Public Schools at Wadsworth STEM Elementary.

Favorite Food Education Standard: FES #6: We can make positive and informed food choices.

 Too many people I know, especially my students, are not food “smart” – hot chips and soda is not a meal. However, my students would eat a bag of “flaming hot” something over a healthy food meal any day. So, if I teach making informed food choices, hopefully, they’ll change the part of their daily diet they can control.

A Favorite Food Memory or Recipe: 

When I was 8 or 9 years old, my grandmother and mother decided it was time for me to learn to bake. I’m ushered into the kitchen with a mixture of apprehension and excitement: truly a basket case, but who’s really looking? I hear the sounds of my grandmother in a silky, loving, smooth, direct tone, “Sugar, butter, a pinch of salt, one egg, and this brown bottle here, it’s VANILLA. Pay attention to the word because all the bottles are brown. A half of a teaspoon of vanilla. Okay?” I nodded. My mother at this point returned to the living room. In the kitchen, I measured and mixed and began my batch of butter cookies. She showed me how to drop and space the cookie dough. At last, my neat row of five in two columns. My grand demonstrated putting my cookies in the oven.

Why I Became a Fellow: 

I’m most excited about the ability to connect food with the current curriculum and being part of a network of like-minded people. It is great to be able to give students a new approach to food and help them understand their consumption and its impact on the body.

23-24 Fellow Cynthia Brawner
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